Saturday, June 19, 2004

Sorry, But This Wasn't Israel


Coalition says it hit safe house; at least 18 killed
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Coalition forces Saturday said they launched a missile strike against a "safe house" in Fallujah, Iraq, linked to the anti-coalition network of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an insurgent wanted for attacks against U.S. forces and Iraqis.
Hospital and Iraqi official sources said at least 18 Iraqis were killed and nine others were wounded in the Sunni Triangle city -- where witnesses described a U.S. airstrike. The coalition later acknowledged its operation and did not dispute that up to 19 people might have been killed.
The U.S.-led coalition said it used precision weapons to destroy the safe house after receiving intelligence from multiple sources.
The coalition said secondary explosions from illegal weapons and ammunition stockpiles lasted for 20 minutes.
On Wednesday, a senior Pentagon official said intelligence indicated insurgent leader al-Zarqawi and members of his organization might be hiding in Fallujah.
A senior coalition official said the structure was believed to house members of the al-Zarqawi network, but al-Zarqawi was not believed to be inside. Coalition officials believe members of his network were among those killed.
The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi has been blamed for several attacks in Iraq, including Thursday's car bombing outside an Iraqi army recruitment center in Baghdad that killed at least 35 people and wounded 145.
Some witnesses and survivors said they saw two U.S. jets launch an attack and subsequently saw the destruction of two houses.
Wounded people in a Fallujah hospital earlier said their houses had been hit by a U.S helicopter strike. The senior coalition military official would not confirm jets were used in the strike but he said the operation did not involve helicopters.
Among the dead were two children and a woman, and the bodies were charred, hospital officials said. Two women among the injured and wounded people were taken to hospitals in Baghdad and Ramadi.
News footage from Fallujah showed people milling around and picking through the rubble.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Really Right Words

In the August 5, 2001 column of ON LANGUAGE by WILLIAM SAFIRE, in the New York Times Weekend Magazine, I found this:-

"Words have connotations. In the disputed territory known as the West Bank, an Israeli village is called a settlement, implying fresh intrusion; a small Palestinian town, even one recently settled, is called a village,
implying permanence."

Not to take all the credit, but I have written to Mr. Safire several times in the past, using that exact example. Well, maybe we have gained a supporter for a
proper Hasbara line.

For those who have time to read, here's the whole section which touches also on other related topics in the "semantic war".:

''President Boris Trajkovski,'' reported the Guardian correspondent in Skopje, Macedonia, ''vowed to continue the fight against the gunmen of the National Liberation Army.''

In Belfast, The Associated Press reported that ''two gunmen fired shots at Catholic men smoking outside a community center.''

''Three Palestinian militants were killed'' in an Israeli helicopter attack, reported ABC News. ''In apparent retaliation, Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli yesterday and set off two car bombs.''

Words have connotations. In the disputed territory known as the West Bank, an Israeli village is called a settlement, implying fresh intrusion; a small Palestinian town, even one recently settled, is called a village, implying permanence.

A word that terrifies many fair-minded editors is terrorist; it connotes criminality. Because it is said that one man's terrorist is another man's ''freedom fighter,'' journalists have reached out for other nouns, like
guerrilla, militant or paramilitary.

The latest rush from judgment is gunman. In 1999, that word appeared once in the database I checked for every five uses of terrorist in connection with Israel; now it's running about one in two.

Because the Associated Press stylebook has no specific entries on terrorist or gunman, I asked its editor, Norm Goldstein, about what went into the choice. ''Words like gunmen, separatist and rebel are often more precise than terrorist and less likely to be viewed as judgmental,'' he notes. ''We often prefer the more specific words for that reason.'' Nor does the Times stylebook have a guideline; its editors tell reporters to use ''the most accurate and impartial term, especially in cases where the political merits are disputed.''

The United States Department of State has a guideline in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d): ''The term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets'' -- that means civilian or unarmed military -- by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an

Gunmen may be a useful catchall for journalists who do not want to appear less than objective by applying that standard of political intent and noncombatant victim. But in avoiding one problem, it engenders another:
''Why do you suppose this gender-biased word is still in use?'' asks Isaac Moses of Cambridge, Mass. ''Perhaps the lesson that violence is a particularly male occupation is not one that we want to impart on our little boys.''

In every other walk of linguistic life, sexism is being rooted out. Firemen are firefighters, policemen police officers, postmen mail carriers. But in current ultra-nonjudgmental parlance, there are neither terrorists nor
gunwomen. A female terrorist using a gun goes by the name of gunman.

Bush and "Settlements"

President George W. Bush, in his speech on the White House steps on Monday, made one direct reference to the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and another, oblique reference.

In the one section of his address, he stated that "Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop." This is a bit unclear to me. Did he mean a "provisional" stop, like as in a provisional state a la Colin Powell? Is this a halt that is to be temporary or part of the final resolution of the conflict? Are the communities to be allowed, at a future date, to begin natural development once again, or must they remain fixed at the current situation or what?

In a second section, he touched on the core issues that divide Israel and the Palestinians and insisted that if there is to be a real peace, these claims must be resolved. In this context, Bush said that "the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will be ended...with Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognize borders." Again, I am not sure of the details. Must the Jewish civilian presence in these areas be banned and the communities dismantled? Would President Bush be amenable to accept that Jews can live in Shiloh, Samaria and Hebron, Judea just like we can do so in Shiloh, Ohio (or Illinois or Wisconsin) or in Hebron Texas, (or Nebraska or Maryland)?

And if he does accept the rather immoral and unjust Palestinian stance that their territory must be emptied of Jews, would he accept a rather more permanent resolution of the conflict that would permit Israel to move its Arab population into the new Palestine?

Obviously, the question of the legality of the Jewish residential communities in areas beyond Israel's former "Green Line" border is one that simply will not go away. Kofi Anan, last March, spoke of an "illegal occupation" what George P. Fletcher called "careless language". Arabs are insistent that international law forbids Jewish communities in the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (which in Hebrew acronym form is initialized as YESHA).

The constant repetition of this theme has browbeaten many. Others simply ignore the claim, assuming it may be correct but nevertheless promote a Jewish presence due either to Israel's security needs or out of a religious-based recognition that these are actually the heartland of the Biblical geographical landscape. Israel's Foreign Ministry's wishy-washy information services, mainly due to partisan internal politics, never tackle the issue head-on. In truth, international law supports those villages, agricultural communities and municipalities.

What Mr. Bush may not be aware of is that the text of the 1917 Balfour Declaration of 1917 had been approved by a previous United States President,
Woodrow Wilson, prior to its publication. Indeed, the Inquiry Commission established by President Wilson affirmed "that Palestine should become a Jewish State" and that "Palestine...was the cradle and home of their vital race", a succinct statement of the essence of the principle of self-determination, a principle the Arabs have absconded away with as if applicable only to their cause.

That declaration, issued by the British Government and later to serve as the basis for the League of Nations Mandate approved in 1922, refers on the one hand to "a National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine" while on the other, it refers to "non-Jewish communities in Palestine".

The distinction is not coincidental nor unintentional. National and historical rights are recognized clearly in the context of the Jewish people only. The assumption that the land in question, 'belonged' as it were, to an Arab people (there were no Palestinians to speak of at the time), was, and is, textually unsupported. What was included in the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate were the "civil and religious rights" of non-specified "non-Jewish communities". Again, no "Arabs".

Furthermore, the Mandate acknowledges that "recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country". In Article 6, the administration apparatus of the Mandate, the temporary form of government, was charged with facilitating and encouraging "close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes". Well, it seems that international recognition of "settlements" and settlement activity is over 80 years old.

President Bush should also be apprised that the United States House of Representatives and the Senate adopted resolutions supporting the Mandate, on June 30, 1922 and May 3, 1922 respectively. Indeed, President W. Harding signed a proclamation on September 21, 1922 which stated that "the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People...and that the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected". These acts reinforced the position fully understood that the rights accruing a national grouping belonged solely to the Jewish people and that non-Jewish elements could claim but protection for property and civil rights on an individual buildings basis.

Interestingly enough, one might ask if the administration can pursue a policy - the prohibiting of residence - which if activated in the United States would surely be struck down by the Supreme Court there as racist and illegal. Given that the U.S. Congress has already expressed a principled support to the right of Jews to live throughout its historic homeland, I would suggest that President Bush should review his policy.

In the end though, it comes down to a gut feeling: can it be that a Jew cannot live in the places where his religion, cultural and national identity was shaped for many hundreds of years? What "law" touts that?

Israel’s Other War

Israel has been forced to wage a military war of self-defense in the face of Arab violence. This violence includes both terror (suicide bombers) and low-intensity actions (rockets). Israel is also waging a diplomatic battle against decidedly pro-Palestinian elements in various countries who have traditionally been unfavorably disposed towards Israel. In addition, Israel is fighting a war of words, a bitter and frustrating campaign in the media, whose battlefied is newsprint, electronic images and sound-bytes.

The media transfers information and imagery perception in a powerful fashion. Public opinion is generated by news stories. America’s war against Spain was a conflict launched in the pages of yellow journalism. The media is one front that cannot be ignored or pooh-poohed.

The media acts to intensify, to sensationalize and to spin the news. Reporters and their editors feel obligated to humanize the story, even when the truth is stretched for the sake of a good picture. In acting as agents of communication, the media alters facts from the field, even imperceptibly, by the time the media consumer sits down before his TV set or opens his paper over morning coffee. The old-time stolid hard news approach is no longer with us.

* * *

I live in Shiloh. But do I also live in Israel, in the West Bank or in the “occupied” or “disputed” territories? Is Shiloh too “Biblical”-sounding for our modern reporters, very few of them comfortable with religion (but Jerusalem sounds just fine)? Have they actually read the 1949 Geneva
Convention to understand that “occupied territory” applies only to High-Contracting Parties, which excludes any so-called Palestinian entity?

Are they aware that the Jewish National Home received international legal recognition, by the League of Nations and the two houses of the U.S. Congress, in 1923? It is probably news to most reporters that the word “Arab” did not exist in any of those ratifications but rather “non-Jewish communities”. If they are woefully lacking in basic facts, it is no wonder that Israel’s actions assume a media presence that appears provocative and aggressive with a bit of inhumanity tossed in between the lines.

It is media byword that my home in Shiloh is “settlement”. That the term “settlement” implies something that is a foreign implant and intrusive, something even temporary, doesn’t bother the foreign correspondents who traipse through the hills of Judea and Samaria. Wouldn’t it be most natural for a Jew to reside where his forefathers dwelled, where the Tabernacle was erected? If I suggest to them, though, that Shiloh could also be a community, a village, a rural town or even, as is the case with Ariel, a
city, they will accuse me of attempting to manipulate their readers. On the other hand, inner-city neighborhoods in Arab towns are always “refugee camps” although tents no longer exist and a good many of the homes there could be described as opulent.

* * *

Among many diplomats, Secretary of State Collin Powell has called upon Israel to act “proportionately” in response to the Arab violence. Did Powell expect Israel then to send suicide bombers into Ramallah restaurant or Jericho junk-food joints? Does he expect Israel to shoot up Muslim
religious or ceremonial affairs, what happens in the Jewish sector, as an expression of that proportion? Would that be an acceptable course of action instead of disarming Palestinian gunmen in their hideouts?

Another point. Who is perpetrating the violence on the Arab side?

Are they “militiamen”, “gunmen”, “dissidents”, “activists” or the ever-ubiquitous “militants”? When I was in university, the activist was the one who picketed outside the campus official’s office and the militant was the one
who sat inside. But that a militant took up arms to kill innocent civilians was defective speech. A survey of written and broadcast media reports over the past 18 months of violence will reveal that “terrorists” rarely exist.
Most media people, it is no secret, would sympathize with the term “freedom fighter” but as yet, their foreign news editors back in New York and London will not allow that nomenclature on the news pages. As yet.

* * *

The inability or even the unwillingness of the media to add depth to their reports also places an almost insurmountable burden on Israel’s information services and the effort of their sympathizers the world over. That certain news people have even been intimidated, in Lebanon and in the Palestinian Authority, is also a fact of life and death. Yassir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, three years before the 1967 Six Days War. Israel did not administer any “West Bank territory” at that time; neither did Israel establish “settlements”.

Any person with a modicum of logic and honesty would ask himself would a solution to the conflict, then, depend on the surrendering of these “territories” or the dismantling of these “settlements” which didn’t exist when Arabs tried to destroy Israel. Reporters, though, never seem to ask
their Arab interviewees those questions.

The dismantling of the Jewish civilian communities in portions of the historic Jewish homeland is a de rigueur media slogan. The communities are “unhelpful” and even an “obstacle”. Yet the media never engages in a
flip-side aspect of this policy: if Jews need to be moved from their homes in a future “Palestine”, would it not follow that Arabs may need to be moved from their homes in Israel? Why should only one populace suffer the threat
of a transfer? The media never discusses this issue.

* * *

Many, but not all, foreign press representatives, do not speak Hebrew or Arabic. The intricacies of the 100 years of conflict escape them. Jewish secondary personnel, cameramen, soundmen and researchers, cannot work in
Palestinian territories. The principles of professional media ethics ­fairness, objectivity and balance ­ are too difficult to maintain. The right of the people to know and the obligation of the media to provide that knowledge is not working in Israel today. What does exist is a bias. The bias is perhaps not intentional, or even unavoidable. Nevertheless, it is there. Media consumers need to know at least that.

On Ethnic Cleansing

Here is another of my letters to the New York Times that didn't get published. Although written on February 20, 2004, it remains relevant as now it is Ariel Sharon who is pushing out the Jews.

Ethan Bronner describes as "stunning" Benny Morris' statement that "there are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing", ("Who Is to Blame for the Creation of Palestinian Refugees?", Feb. 20). Why should Bronner be stunned?

Was not the demand of the Palestinian leadership, since 1920, that as few as Jews as possible be permitted to live in anywhere west of the Jordan River not so? Was not the war the Arabs launched on the morrow of the 1947 UN Partition Resolution intended to ethnically cleanse the country of Jews?

Does the American policy of encouraging the dismantling of Jewish communities not resonant with ethnic cleansing? Indeed, is not Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's current policy, to expel all Jews from Gaza, where Jews have lived, as in Hebron in Judea, for centuries until Arab riots in 1929 forced them to leave, also engaged in ethnic cleansing?

We revenants, the Jews who have returned to the regions of our historic homeland, have a recognized right in international law, based on the League of Nations decision in 1922, to live in the Land of Israel. We will not be ethnically cleansed.
I am atacked in London Review of Books,

In response to my letter, responding to Virginia Tilley's article of last November, two letters subsequently appeared (see below).

My response (not yet published) then follows.

Unfair to Revenants
From Virginia Tilley

In accusing me of mischaracterising the settler population in the West Bank, Yisrael Medad (Letters, 6 May) misquotes my article. The full sentence read: 'Nor does the problem lie with the minority of settlers in "Judea and Samaria" who are indeed gun-toting religious zealots (mostly from the US), even if their domestic political influence is daunting.' I had meant to highlight, not obscure, the minority status of the extremists who, in stereotype, are the face of settler intransigence, while explaining why this minority has unique political leverage. Certainly the settlers are 'secular in the main'. In briefly acknowledging that many of the most militant are from the US I intended an oblique reference to their insulated origins, which have fostered a particularly chauvinistic attitude toward Arabs. The term 'revenants' that Medad prefers for that majority (as reflecting a 'return' to 'ancestral homes' and a right to sovereignty after 'a long hiatus') indicates more graphically than I could have managed that where the land is concerned the secular settler world-view is not so very different.

Virginia Tilley
Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York


Unfair to Revenants
From Nicholas Blanton

Yisrael Medad asks that we call the Jewish settlers in the West Bank revenants, as befits 'persons who have returned after a long hiatus to their ancestral homes' (Letters, 6 May). I know just how he feels. My family lost everything in the North of England in 1070, when William the Conqueror ethnically cleansed the landowners, and it's been annoying us ever since. If Medad would meet me next Thursday in Barnard Castle, with a few hundred of his armed friends, we could finally see justice done. It's tough perhaps to the non-revenants, who've been there for only 934 years, but we won't charge them back rent and there are plenty of people who speak their language next door. I'm sure they'll adjust and find other places to live, among their own kind.

Nicholas Blanton
Shepherdstown, West Virginia


Now me:-

Virginia Tilley (Letters, 3 June), in responding to my comment on her article claims I misquoted her. If guilty of anything, I would admit to the crime be miscontruing, perhaps.

"Gun-toting" could also be applied to any person officially licensed to carry a weapon for self-defense but the way Tilley employed it, it was purposively pejorative and that is how I understood it. Jews in the disputed territories must carry guns, as do a majority of Israelis living in Israel, due to an Arab predilection to kill Jews wherever they find them, no matter their age or gender or where they live. If this be a "chauvinistic attitude", then this is turning the conflict on its head whereby the victims are altered into a state of the perpetrator.

As for Nicholas Blanton's bemoaning of lost real estate in northern England, (20 May), but why should I joust with him? My 'battle' is with an invading force which, in 638, conquered my country crying "Muhammed's law by the sword!".

My forefathers walked these hills of Judea and Samaria two thousand years before that Arab forceful usurption 1300 years ago as kings, prophets and priests. Those Jewish revenants came back to this land after a first exile and again after a second exile. No century passed without an attempt to return to our homeland.

Despite Blanton's blandishments, after having undergone the rule of a British Mandate that doomed millions of my brethren to the Nazi ovens by halting immigration during the Second World War, we are not going anywhere. And neither need the Arabs go anywhere, if they desist from using terror.

Orly's "Affair" - A Media Comment

Orly's "Affair"

By Yisrael Medad and Eli Pollak

Orly Vilnai-Federbush doesn't work anymore as a reporter for the Israel Broadcasting Authority's Channel One News. Her new job will be to host the Bulldog program on cable Channel 8. And therein lies a media affair.

Orly, 31, daughter of Kol Yisrael's Shimon Vilnai, was a rising star. Her beat these last few years was the social welfare scene, its personalities, events and agencies, prominently the Histadrut. She had made several
important contributions to the highlighting of various socio-economic concerns that only a two-minute exposure on national television can help solve even if the full background of the story is limited.

A few months ago, when she was moved over to the legal news coverage, what most would consider a normal rotation, the protests erupted. Vilnai-Federbush did not want to move. The Histadrut raised a ruckus. Amir Peretz, who happens to be an opposition politician and of late, a returnee to the Labor Party, as well as the Na'amat organization, felt that they had lost a direct link to hundreds of thousands of media consumers who were to be denied being the recipients of their press releases via Vilnai-Federbush's TV clips.

She did not want to leave the IBA. Her friends tried to defend her. Esther Herzog wrote in an op-ed column in Ma'ariv that "Vilna'i Federbush should be respected for her foregoing a high salary, stature and publicity just for
the sake of her professional and social honesty." Ma'ariv newspaper's Shavuoth magazine highlighted her story on the front page, under the heading "Orly is taking off her gloves". Other dailies also played up the controversy.

Vilnai-Federbush thought that she has a secret weapon that would safeguard her position. She had been illegally transferred, she claimed, due to the political considerations of her bosses, notably Joe Barel, D-G of the IBA. She stated that she had been instructed to go easy on Meir Sheetrit, Minister in the Treasury, especially since the IBA's budget was up for consideration. And she had proof - tapes that had been surreptitiously recorded. One transcript she released contained this line: "I'm fed up with your behavior, you are a spoiled brat who doesn't do what your directors tell you to do".

Was Orly Vilnai-Federbush forced out illegitimately? Are the directors of IBA evil people?

As a reporter, Vilnai-Federbush made a big splash in reporting Vicki Knafo's march and subsequent sit-in outside the Ministry of the Treasury. However, as later revealed, she did not think it out of the ordinary nor unethical
not to let the viewers know that the single mothers mostly did not, as was being reported, walk all the way from Mitzpeh Ramon, Yerucham and other cities to Jerusalem. "It is nit-picking," she said, "to broadcast that the women really didn't march. If someone gave them a lift, that really isn't important." Would she have reacted in the same way when Gush Katif people marched to the capital? Would it also have been a non-starter when people on a hunger strike are caught eating?

As Chanan Amior reported in The Seventh Eye media review, issue 46, Vilnai-Federbush would also not have publicized that Knafo's son was in prison had she known. The story of how Vicki Knafo was a front woman for a radical group of social activists, of how she received support and backing
and the extent of the "planned spontaneity" of her protest was censored by Vilnai-Federbush in an act that we consider to be unprofessional editorial usurpation.

Vilnai-Federbush has a history of "errors" and is a recalcitrant offender. Back in November 2002, she broadcast an incorrect item relating how the Rabbinate causes the destruction of agricultural produce for the "Priestly" tithe, a tithe that actually does not exist. She also include a misquotation of the Chief Rabbi. In other instances, she did not give government ministries attacked in her reports the right of retort. In a
recent story, she "left out" that a jailed debtor owned several trucks.

The charge that IBA reporters are pressured to kowtow to politicians is an old one. After all, senior IBA directors are political appointees. It so happens, though, that subsequent to her accusations, 22 IBA news reporters
felt it necessary to sign and make public a letter denouncing Orly's claims they were working in an atmosphere of fear, among them: Geula Even, Ayala Hason, Yigal Ravid and Oded Granot.

There is no justification for a bureaucrat's attempt to protect his budget by offering favors. But Orly Vilnai-Federbush's journalistic failings have nothing to do with this. Unfortunately, she had chosen the path of other IBA
persona such as Daliah Ya'iri, Shelly Yechimovitz and Carmela Menasheh who have exploited the microphones they speak through to advance personal ideological and political agendas.

Orly has had her fling. The public now should receive unbiased news.

Mesha and the Pal. Suicide Bombers

Here's my letter to the New York Times in response to a report in today's paper:-

In the Bible, 2 Kings 3, the story is told of a Moabite King, Mesha, who revolted against the kingdom of Israel upon the death of Ahab. He was attacked by an alliance of the three kings, of Israel, Judah and Edom and in an attempt to stay the onslaught, as verse 27 relates, "he took his eldest son...and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall."

This story came to mind upon reading Greg Myre's report on Palestinian Arab youngsters recruiting their peers to become suicidal terrorist bombers ("Israel Says Children Enlist Children as Suicide Bombers", June 13). The hatred cultivated by Palestinian society is unfathomable. I have not found one recorded incident, during the Holocaust, of a Nazi blowing himself up in order to kill Jews and yet Israel has suffered many dozens of Arabs killing themselves if only to kill and maim Jews, a throwback to Mesha of Moab.

This phenomenom is a horrific comment on the inhumanity of the Arabs of Palestine and, as Myre's story highlights, is even more tragic than we can imagine.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

What To Do With the Wigs

For the past month or so, the world of Orthodox Jewry has been busy with whther or not wigs from India are to be considered part of pagan worship. And if so, then they are forbidden to be used.

Just a fortnight ago, another Jewish ritual problem popped up. The water in New York, some circles presume, is not kosher due to certain creatures in the water.

Well, one solution I came up with is to send the wigs to New York where they will be used as filters for the suspected non-kosher water. That way the water is cleansed and the wigs go through, hopefully, a process of ritual purification, too.